December and the holidays are a time of great joy and celebration. Families come together, traditions are re-lived, and we hopefully take a moment to listen to the bells and feel the silence of the night.
The holidays can also be a difficult time, especially if you are a new mother having problems breastfeeding. Whether we like it or not, some mothers end up frustrated, sad or disappointed that breastfeeding is downright hard for them. And some of them will stop because it is just too much.
We say to moms, “Babies were born to be breastfed.” and “Your body is designed to make milk.” The reality is that some babies do not breastfeed very well and some moms do not make all the milk their babies need. Period.
When this happens, a mom may feel a tremendous loss of her breastfeeding dream. She may also feel pressured or a sense of failure. Even though we say “Any amount of breastmilk and any time at the breast is beneficial for your baby,” a mother may still feel like it “wasn’t good enough." She may stop breastfeeding because she does not have the support system to keep going. She may not be able to handle her own expectations. She may not have mastered the flexibility that parenthood requires, because, after all, she is just learning how to be a mother to her baby.
We often respond, “Oh, but you tried!” or, “Just focus on your beautiful baby now!” or, “It’s okay, your baby will be fine.” Do any of these statements acknowledge her deep feelings? And why do we always feel slightly uncomfortable when we say them? As though breastfeeding doesn’t really matter anyway?
Like any other loss, moms have to move through and come to peace with their feelings and their choices. It’s our job to listen and acknowledge her feelings, not fix them, no matter how uncomfortable we may feel. When we rationalize away her feelings, we do little more than encourage her to hang on to them for dear life, instead of letting go and moving on.
We realize that moms have vastly different feelings and ideas about breastfeeding. Mothering is full of loss and it is also full of acceptance. We trust moms to find their way and follow their hearts. In the midst of this, a mother may quit breastfeeding because it is the right thing for her to do. Another mother may feel great sadness at the loss of her breastfeeding dream. Another mother may struggle to make it work no matter what. In the end, each mother will find her way. Our job is to listen, trust and accept.